Staff photo, Heather Spaulding. Terri Dowell and Addy at Skookum Dog Rehabilitation and Fitness

Orcas veterinarian offers mobile services to San Juan Island

A desire to help the community, as well as a love of animals, drew Teri Dowdell to open her business, Sunbreak Roving Veterinary Services, located on Orcas, and Skookum Dog Rehabilitation and Fitness Center in San Juan.

“Many veterinary students are there because of their love of animals. For me it was a combination of my love of animals and wanting to do something helpful and positive for my community,” Dowdell said.

Dowdell’s trek into the veterinary world began studying marine biology in college. Her distaste for writing grant proposals gave her doubts about that direction.

“The thought of depending on grant money for the rest of my career seemed terrible and risky,” she said. Working as an assistant for Islands Veterinary Clinic during the 90s, motivated her to return to school.

Dowdell primarily treats cats and dogs but says she is open to other species.

Although Dowdell is located on Orcas, her roving services travel to other islands and nearby mainland areas. The service helps pet owners who don’t drive. It can also be a gentler option for pets who become anxious during car rides.

Dowdell’s practice focuses on services that complement care by primary veterinarians. Those treatments include acupuncture, therapeutic laser, and pulsed electromagnetic field treatments.

Therapeutic laser treatments can reduce swelling and pain, and have a biostimulation effect for increased tissue healing. These effects can be beneficial in both acute and chronic situations. Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy can benefit bone, joint, and tendon disorders, according to Dowell, and can have a positive effect on the production of growth factors. There have also been reports of humans with non-healing wounds helped by PEMF, she added.

Dowdell also can prescribe medications or modify existing medications, as well as hospice and euthanasia services. Hospice is essentially at home care for a pet diagnosed with a terminal illness, under the supervision of a veterinarian.

“I feel strongly that hospice and home euthanasia are the nicest most gentle and caring offerings for our four-legged family members at that time of life,” Dowdell said, adding that a pet’s death often impacts the entire family in complex ways. Hospice or euthanasia at home enables the pet to be in a comfortable familiar place at the end. Grieving pet owners are given privacy, not having to walk past others as they leave a veterinarian office.

For geriatric or, the opposite, high energy pups, Dowdell has also taken over what was formerly “Paws in the Water,” now Skookum Dog Rehabilitation and Fitness Center, located at the San Juan Business park 82 Portage Place, Unit D. Skookum is the first rehabilitation center on the island, and Dowdell has big ideas.

“Animal rehabilitation is the fastest growing area of veterinary medicine and is probably one of the least understood at this time,” Dowdell explained that hydrotherapy can be an integral part of pain management, positively influence the clinical recovery after surgeries, and can aid in weight loss. The water is warm allowing muscles to relax for easier movement.

“A study that came out in 2014 showed that dogs swimming twice a week had increased health of hips with osteoarthritis,” she said.

Each dog has solo time in the pool, and sessions last approximately 30, depending on the need.

Many of the dogs attend for rehabilitation or treatment, however some need or want supplemental exercise. One of those canines is Addi, a young pup who loves Skookum swimming so immensely, Dowdell heard her howling with anticipation from the parking lot.

“She barreled past all of us and dove straight into the pool before anyone could stop her,” Dowdell said.

Dowdell is holding three public open houses at Skookum. The first was Oct. 22, the next two are scheduled for Oct. 29 and Nov. 5 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

After 17 years of being away, Dowdell is happy returning to the community that started of her veterinarian journey and to be able to offer her services locally.

“It feels so good to be back,” she said.

For more information visit her website at or email her at


Staff photo, Heather Spaulding. Terri Dowell and Addy at Skookum Dog Rehabilitation and Fitness

Staff photo, Heather Spaulding. Terri Dowell and Addy at Skookum Dog Rehabilitation and Fitness

Staff photo, Heather Spaulding. Terri Dowell and Addy at Skookum Dog Rehabilitation and Fitness